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Parkview eyes April ballot for referendum

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GINA R. HEINE
December 6, 2011
— Parkview school officials are moving quickly to get a referendum for an elementary school addition on April's ballot, and they should have a better idea of how much it will cost next week.

The district is seeking a more accurate estimate from J.P. Cullen & Sons in Janesville and Ringland-Johnson of Cherry Valley, Ill., to add 14 classrooms and a three-station gym with locker rooms to Orfordville Elementary School. The existing gym and cafeteria also would be remodeled.


Monday night's buildings and grounds committee meeting offered officials the first public chance to discuss the school board's decision last week to close Newark and Footville elementary schools.


The board voted 4-3 to seek a $3.8 million referendum to build a permanent addition to Orfordville and close Newark and Footville at an undetermined date. According to the board's motion, if the referendum fails, eight portable classrooms would be built at Orfordville instead, and the sixth grade would be moved to the junior/senior high school.


A resident on Monday questioned if the motion specifically stated the referendum would seek $3.8 million. Yes, said board member Craig Jones, who added that if that number were to change, the board would have to vote again.


Including an exact number in the board's decision was unfortunate, said Kevin Hickman, director of business development with J.P. Cullen, who with a colleague discussed the project with the committee.


When you throw a number out without verifying that it will cover the scope of the desired project, "folks are going to latch onto that number," he said.


The $3.8 million was based on an estimate from Ringland-Johnson to add 14 classrooms and a gym, but no remodeling was included, and it was unclear whether the design included locker rooms.


Committee members and Superintendent Steve Lutzke wrote a basic list of requirements for the addition, which will be the basis for the two contractors to develop a more accurate estimate. The buildings and grounds committee will meet at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday and likely forward a recommendation to the school board, which meets at 6 p.m. Monday, Dec. 19.


Hickman stressed how quickly things need to come together to make April's ballot, which means getting the referendum wording to the county by Friday, Jan. 20.


If the district doesn't start working with a general contractor in the next week or so, "it's going to be very difficult, I think, for you to have confidence in the number (dollar amount) you're going to present to the public," Hickman said.


He also noted other barriers to success, including the lack of a full board consensus for the project and the short amount of time to educate the public about the proposal.


If the district gets a firm cost for the project, Lutzke said, the district's financial and legal advisers said they could prepare the referendum for the April ballot.


About a dozen residents showed up to learn more about the plans, with about half of them asking questions or cautioning board members to rethink their plans.


If you're going to close schools, close Newark first, said Mike Eggleston of Orfordville, with the agreement to close Footville later.


"I don't think you're prepared, and do not have the time, to be practical on closing the Footville school because you're going to try to rush this referendum through," he said. "I think people need to be educated a little bit on it, and I don't think there's time for that."


If the district took six more months, the referendum would have a better chance of passing, he said. He said he's not opposed to a referendum, but he doesn't want the board to push it down voters' throats by working on such a quick timeline.



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